Politics is the most observed but least understood of phenomena. So, it is a Herculean task to describe what constitutes good leadership. Nevertheless, a few dimensions have been widely recognised as a measure of a good political leader. They are competence and trustworthiness. Both the Nepali Congress and UML have performed poorly on both these fronts
Nepal is going to experience a double political whammy soon in the wake of the twin party conventions being held by the Nepali Congress, the party in power, and the UML, the opposition in the Parliament, over a month's time.
Bhim Rawal, the UML vice president, has already announced his solitary candidature for the post of party president with his vision, assumptions and objectives.
As for the Nepali Congress, it appears to be a star-studded competition in view of several party leaders seeking to contest for the covetous position of president. Mahesh Acharya, the former finance minister and Central Committee Member of the Nepali Congress, has already created political ripples by initiating discussion and discourse on what kind of attributes the new leader should have. Announcing the candidacy for the vice president, he has also invited people of different walks of life, including the intelligentsia ,to contribute in this important debate.
Acharya reminds one of CK Persai, the political ideologue of the Nepali Congress.
Persai never sought lofty positions but always generated discussion among the Nepali Congress volunteers. Acharya, similarly noted for his simplicity but clarity of thought, has generated political discussion in the Nepali Congress, which had become stale with virtually no ideological debate and discussion.
Leaders from both the parties have shown interest for the party leadership, but do they have the wherewithal to take the political bulls– the US and China – by the horn that have been running rampant in the international arena? Gone are the days when the United States enjoyed a monopoly in world affairs, especially after the fragmentation of the Soviet Union and Chinese engagement in national building. But now, China has been vying with the United States with its tail up after making one achievement after another.
The latest is the successful nuclear hypersonic system, which Mark Milly, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff has described as not quite but close to the Sputnik phenomenon, which showed how Americans were hopelessly lagging behind the Soviet Union in science and technology. Though Xi recently talked about not seeking dominance but peace and tranquility during an ASEAN meet, China's moves appear unconvincing.
The belligerence shown over the North China Sea and the more recent attack on Indian soldiers in Doklam reflect its highhandedness.
Politics is the most observed but least understood of phenomena. So, it is a Herculean task to describe what constitutes good leadership. Nevertheless, a few dimensions have been widely recognised as a measure of a good political leader. They are competence and trustworthiness.
Both the Nepali Congress and UML have performed poorly on both these fronts as they have not been able to survive even a full term of office awarded by the people.
Leaders are also assessed by political craftsmanship, vigorousness, integrity, communicative performance, consistency and responsiveness.
Political craftsmanship is possessing enough general knowledge and political intelligence.
President Bush Jr was said to be lacking in this area. This is also the case with the leaders of the NC and the UML. The irrational use of Parliament bills shows the bankruptcy of political intelligence.
Vigorousness is about showing assertiveness, determination and aggressiveness.
Even on this front, the leaders of both the streams show their fragility.
The failure to implement the yearly plan and programme as well as the budget is a stark reminder of this reality. Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, is projected as an example of political vigorousness.
Integrity is virtually zero among Nepali politicians.
Integrity is about the needs, wishes and demands of the country rather than those of the leader. The involvement of politicians in one scam or the other reflects this reality. Indian Premier Modi has shown how one can exercise a high level of integrity despite the deep-rooted corrupt practices in India.
Communicative performance has been a forte of the UML leaders. But recently, they are dominated by unnecessary proverbial outbursts and sweet nothings.
Rawal appears to perform fairly well in this arena as exemplified by his press conference during the announcement of his candidature. The Congress leaders are, however, streets behind. Very few of them have been an interviewer's delight. President Obama is often remembered for this talent.
Consistency and responsiveness have been yet another endangered species in Nepali politics. This is tantamount to unchangeable, accountable, foreseeable, dependable and trustworthy.
Only politicians like Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Man Mohan Adhikari and Sushil Koirala excelled in some of these dimensions. Other politicians paled with respect to the above. The party volunteers should judge the candidates with respect to the aforementioned dimensions in order to elect a leader who can take the country forward in the post twenties.
The questions to be asked are, what is going to be the new world order with China and US seeking world supremacy? How will Nepal make hay while the political bulls fight away? How do they solve the impact of climate change and disasters? How can they use the Buddhist and Hindu card to their advantage and checkmate China and India? Rawal raised these problems but without convincing answers. He did not address interparty cooperation at all nor did he focus on the need of employment inside the country.
The party volunteers of either parties will be erring if they fail to elect a new leadership from the conventions.
Old horses have been sufficiently exposed, and there is nothing much that they can offer. The need in either of the parties is now of a new leadership which can pass the aforementioned acid test to give new hope and aspiration to the country.
A version of this article appears in the print on November 25, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.